Gustave Kaitz – Biography
American Art Deco Master
The singular art of Gustave Kaitz may be described as a highly stylized wellspring of illusion, imagery and symbolism.
Born in Brooklyn in 1913, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Gustave Kaitz started painting professionally as a young man selling his Art Deco originals to Gimbel’s and Fortunoff department stores, and Greenwich Village galleries.
Gustave studied painting at the School of Art at Cooper Union and philosophy at Brooklyn College. By the age of twenty two, the young artist was proprietor of his own studio in Manhattan. Through the years both disciplines – art and philosophy – guided his work and his heart.
Kaitz developed a unique style of painting, his art taking on untried visions through his conceptual Deco works of the times, employing mixed media of water colors, pastels and pencil, painted on board.
I recall vividly the movement of the Deco years. They were years masked in the innocence of an unsophisticated generation, a generation in revolt against man’s excessive rationality. Romanticized by the Deco movement, the twenties and thirties will ever be remembered for a period that introduced illusion and spirit into modernism, opening new vistas in the evolution of art. – Kaitz
Kaitz’s approach to his art is of awe and imagination, of philosophy and self-realization. The self-styled painter began establishing his reputation in the 1930s, during the latter part of the Art Deco period.
Kaitz’s mythologies are peopled by celestial beings – women who are not really women at all; they are goddesses, Goddess of Vengeance (1930) or mythical subjects like Leda and the Swan (1935), Lake Goddess (1970s), and his signature work The Gatsby Girl (1933), illusions beyond the confines of time. They are intellectual concepts, more than tangible creatures of beauty. At the age of seventeen, Kaitz created Sacrifice (1930), woman of universal bondage, acclaimed as one of his great spiritual achievements.
I identify with the host of thinkers who taught the Maya-veil of existence – that all is illusion. The world is transformed by the mind. And so it is in life; we each create our own mythology. – Kaitz
Kaitz created many of his works as a gift to a particular ethnic community. American Opus was an expression of both empathy and hope to the Native Americans.
As a true visionary, Kaitz’s triptych, Voyager, Hope and The Search ascend to the heights of the heavens, where one’s inner world of illusion can be envisioned as reality.
My conceptual abstracts prevail on the struggle and harmony of nature. They’re not just color and design. They also conceive the inner balances and measures of the self: the hopes, despairs, frustrations, desires and fulfillments of one’s consciousness. – Kaitz
Along with his artistic acclaim, Kaitz’s philosophical thoughts and essays won him a place of esteem with the International Platform Association in 1981, having been included in the Directory of Distinguished Americans for his “Contribution to the Arts.”
Although honors were bestowed on him from the art and literary communities, Kaitz remained humble, even reticent. His longtime friend and Nobel Prize nominee, the late poet Menke Katz once wrote, “Gustave is always walking the mountaintops, but he knows what’s going on in the streets.”
Whether it’s one of his early works, done in his teens, or his last, in 1992, Kaitz left behind a cherished legacy, one in which we mortals co-exist within the worlds of Gods and Goddesses of our fantasies.
Gustave’s legacy goes much beyond his art. It is what he instilled in all who were part of his world.